This week didn’t look like it would end up one of the most entertaining slates of the 2020 season on paper, but that was far from the case as Sunday went on. We had the two “tanking” teams — New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars — nearly lost by winning, the Cleveland Browns had the best first half of the entire season against the Tennessee Titans, the New York Giants beat the Seattle Seahawks on the road without Daniel Jones as double-digit dogs, Bill Belichick shut down rookie Justin Herbert in the New England Patriots 45-0 win over the Los Angeles Chargers and a heck of a lot more happened in his great week of football.
PFF is here to break down NFL Week 13 in greater detail using advanced data and our unique play-by-play grading. Here, we present to you the PFF Team of the Week, a few big takeaways and player awards from Week 13 of the 2020 NFL season.
PFF TEAM OF THE WEEK
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
RB: Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
WR: Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
WR: Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills
TE: Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
FLEX: Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders
LT: Andrew Thomas, New York Giants
LG: Laken Tomlinson, San Francisco 49ers
C: Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions
RG: A.J. Cann, Jacksonville Jaguars
RT: Braden Smith, Indianapolis Colts
DI: Bilal Nichols, Chicago Bears
DI: Shelby Harris, Denver Broncos
EDGE: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
EDGE: Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
LB: Malcolm Smith, Cleveland Browns
LB: Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
CB: Cameron Dantzler, Minnesota Vikings
CB: Troy Hill, Los Angeles Rams
S: Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs
S: Micah Hyde, Buffalo Bills
FLEX D: Kenny Moore II, Indianapolis Colts
Jalen Hurts proved he deserves to start over Carson Wentz
We finally got our wish. After weeks of pounding the table for Hurts to get more than one or two snaps at a time and take over the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback job, the rookie finally saw a handful of series when Wentz was sent to the bench after performing poorly against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13. And Hurts fared fairly well in relief of the former No. 2 overall pick.
Hurts recorded a 77.9 passing grade for the game, the eighth-best mark of the week and more than 25 grading points better than Wentz (played through the first drive of the second half). He dropped in a beautiful big-time throw to fellow rookie Jalen Reagor on his first passing attempt of the game on a go ball and then tossed another on his touchdown pass while on the run. Hurts did have an interception, but he was hit as he was thrown.
He perhaps held onto the ball a bit too long on some occasions (3.73-second average time-to-throw), but Hurts was generally able to find success downfield — something Wentz hasn’t done this season. Hurts earned an 88.3 passing grade on throws over 10 yards downfield, which is a higher mark than Wentz has earned in all but one game this season.
Of the 33 rookie quarterback performances this season, Hurts’ Week 13 effort was the fourth-highest graded. Meanwhile, Wentz is the fifth-lowest graded passer this season. Sure, it’s a small sample, but Hurts proved he is worthy of starting for the Eagles from here on out in 2020.
The Cleveland Browns are on a hot streak
Ever since the Browns’ 38-7 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6, their passing offense has looked exponentially better. In fact, over the course of their past five games, they have managed to produce the two most efficient passing offenses we have seen this season — Week 7 at Cincinnati and Week 13 at Tennessee. Those outings were also the most efficient passing offenses the Browns have had since 2006. That’s helped give Cleveland the second-most efficient passing offense since Week 7, behind only the Green Bay Packers. In Weeks 1 through 6, the Browns ranked 24th in passing efficiency.
Baker Mayfield has improved his passing grade from 57.3 in the first six weeks of the season (fourth-worst) to 90.6 since Week 7 (third-best). He has also gone from third-to-last to sixth in turnover-worthy throw rate, as well as jumping from 20th to second in big-time throw rate. Mayfield is consistently making the right reads while not inviting in pressure as often as before. And he’s making fewer poor decisions under pressure, too.
Most importantly, he has been accurate. Against the Titans in Week 13, Mayfield had the most pass attempts without an uncatchable throw since 2017. The Browns’ offensive line has played a significant role in the success, as well. The unit has cut its pressure rate allowed in half from the early part of the season — 28% in Weeks 1-6 to 12% since then. The latter rate is the best in the NFL by over 5 percentage points.
This Kevin Stefanski-led offense is starting to click, turning Cleveland from the league’s laughing stock to a playoff team.
After three straight losing seasons, the Dolphins (8-4) now find themselves in the playoff picture with just four games left to play in the 2020 regular season. Their postseason spot, however, is far from guaranteed. They currently have a 51% playoff probability, with their four remaining games forming a fairly difficult stretch (Chiefs, Patriots, at Raiders and at Bills). Asa result, they need their rookie quarterback to step up to ensure a playoff spot.
Tagovailoa did rebound in Week 13 from his disastrous day in Week 11, but it still wasn’t anything spectacular. The No. 5 overall pick recorded a 64.1 passing grade in Miami’s win over Cincinnati, now making it five starts and five sub-70.0 passing grades in his NFL career. Tua has a 58.8 passing grade on the year that ranks fifth-to-last among current starting quarterbacks. On throws of 10 or more yards downfield, he drops to dead last.
Tua’s downfield passing has been far too spotty, and Week 13 was a prime example of that. He had more negatively graded throws than positively graded ones on those downfield passes. I have all the faith in Tagovailoa becoming a franchise quarterback, but that level of play won’t cut it against the Chiefs in Week 14 or against Bill Belichick’s Patriots in Week 15.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Rodgers entered Week 13 as our highest-graded quarterback and finished it with an even wider gap between him and second place. The Packers quarterback didn’t just have another elite performance that we have seen from him on several occasions this year. He had one of the best performances we have ever seen here at PFF.
Rodgers earned a 97.1 passing grade in their 30-16 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only is that the best of his entire NFL career, but it tied for the second-best single-game passing grade by a quarterback since we began grading in 2006. He didn’t have a single quarterback-fault incompletion on the day and recorded six big-time throws. Of those five big-time throws, two fell incomplete. One was the first play of the third quarter when Rodgers was under pressure and delivered a dime outside of the pocket to Marquez Valdes-Scantling that was dropped. The other was a potential touchdown to Davante Adams on third down early in the fourth quarter.
After this one, Rodgers now has a 94.7 PFF grade for the season. That’s a full two grading points ahead of Patrick Mahomes in second and just shy of the PFF record set by Tom Brady in 2016 at 95.2. At this point, it’s hard to argue that Rodgers is not the MVP.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK & ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
Dantzler, like every other starting rookie cornerback, had gotten off to a rough start in his NFL career. In his seven games played through Week 12, Dantzler ranked 64th of 92 qualifying outside corners in coverage grade. This week, though, the third-round rookie had himself a performance he will never forget with a position-leading 93.0 PFF grade.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mike Glennon targeted Dantzler seven times in coverage and the rookie allowed just one to be caught. That reception was set up to result in just a 3-yard gain for the Jags, but instead, Dantzler ripped the ball out of the receiver’s hands for a forced fumble that he recovered. He also came up with an interception and forced incompletion on those seven targets.
Dantzler had gotten beat for an open explosive play in almost every game of his young NFL career prior to Week 13, but that did not occur on Sunday. On none of those targets in coverage did the receiver have ample separation. Dantzler was a flat-out playmaker for Minnesota on Sunday and had a performance that gives the franchise hope that he can effectively lead that group in the years to come.
OFFENSIVE LINE OF THE WEEK
It’s seemingly every other game we see the Cleveland Browns take home PFF Offensive Line of the Week honors. They were the highest-graded group of the week and have been over the course of the whole season in not only pass protection but also in run-blocking.
The Cleveland offensive line allowed just one single pressure for the entire game (a hurry) and a pressure rate allowed was half that of every other team in their 41-35 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 13. Granted, Kevin Stefanski only tasked them with a true pass set on 25% of their pass-blocking snaps (third-lowest of the week), but it was still impressive nonetheless. Then for the run game, it was their guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller leading the way as they posted run-block grades that ranked first and third respectively at their position. Positively graded run blocks are a stable area for interior offensive linemen, and those two led their position in that category.
SECRET SUPERSTAR OF THE WEEK
Guidry, an undrafted free agent who was on the Jets’ practice squad to begin the season, had played just nine snaps in his NFL career entering Week 13. With Brian Poole on IR following an injury in Week 9, Arthur Maulet was called into action to replace Poole, but he didn’t perform up to snuff with a 36.3 coverage grade in three games. Guidry got to see substantial game action in the slot on Sunday against the Raiders as a result, and the 5-foot-9 former track star surpassed expectations.
Guidry ranked sixth among 28 qualifying defensive backs in slot PFF grade in Week 13. He forced a fumble after giving up a catch to Henry Ruggs in the middle of the fourth quarter, and the Jets offense capitalized on that by scoring a touchdown a few plays later to take a 28-24 lead. The rookie did have one mental mistake in the first quarter that resulted in a coverage bust and a 28-yard gain to Ruggs, but he didn’t get beat for a first down in coverage outside of that. Guidry also blew up a couple of runs for stops and came up big on two different occasions in coverage for passing stops.
It wasn’t a perfect or elite performance from Guidry, but it was a lot better than one would expect in that situation. The former UDFA rookie is one to keep an eye on after performing fairly well in his first real taste of NFL action.
PLAY OF THE WEEK
While one Jets undrafted defensive back excelled on Sunday, another was on the receiving end of a disastrous play and play call that ultimately cost New York the game. With 13 seconds to go down four points with no timeouts on the Jets’ 46-yard line, it seemed certain that the Las Vegas Raiders would be the first team to lose to the New York Jets in the 2020 season. They needed a miracle to avoid the upset and keep their playoff hopes intact, and (now former) Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams handed them one with the bold decision to play Cover-0. This led Lamar Jackson — an undrafted rookie out of Nebraska who ran a 4.58 40-yard at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine — in a one-on-one scenario with Ruggs. And to no surprise, it ended with an open deep ball that Derek Carr hit for the game-winning touchdown.
HENRY RUGGS KEEPS THE TREVOR LAWRENCE DREAM ALIVE IN NY!!!!
— PFF (@PFF) December 6, 2020
For the players themselves, this was a crushing ending. But for the franchise, it’s clearly the best thing that could have happened considering they are still in the driver’s seat for Trevor Lawrence come April 2021. The decision by Williams was an incredibly bad one and actually got him fired, but kudos to Carr and Ruggs for taking advantage of it to keep their playoff hopes alive.
AN EARLY LOOK AHEAD TO WEEK 14…
With just four weeks left to play in the 2020 NFL regular season — the first year of an expanded playoff — the postseason implications are at an all-time high. And next week, there are a significant number of games that will significantly impact quite a few team’s postseason chances as well as potential seeding.
Highlighting the one o’clock slate is the Minnesota Vikings versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Miami Dolphins. Minnesota may currently be in the playoff picture as the seven seed, but according to our predictive model, they have just a 32% to actually reach the postseason. An upset win over the Bucs in Week 14 would, however, significantly impact those odds. It’d also damage the odds of the Arizona Cardinals, who are currently on the outside looking in after losing to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 13. As for the Dolphins, they currently sit at the six seed in the AFC and have a 51% chance of clinching a postseason berth according to that same model.
Then in the four o’clock slate we have the Indianapolis Colts versus the Las Vegas Raiders. Indy currently stands at the seven seed with a 63% chance of making the postseason, while Vegas is the first team just outside of the playoff picture at 49%.
For the Sunday nightcap, there is a big matchup between two of the AFC’s top teams that could impact who gets that highly coveted first-round bye in January as the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Buffalo Bills. And then to cap it all off on Monday Night Football, there’s another impactful matchup for the AFC Wild Card picture between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. They haven’t clinched a spot yet, but the 9-3 Browns are sitting pretty in the playoff picture despite likely being a Wild Card team with a 97% chance to make the postseason. The Ravens, however, are not as they currently sit outside of the playoff picture and a 47% chance of making the postseason. The good news is that they do have by far the easiest remaining schedule in the league, and a win against Cleveland before facing the Jaguars, Giants and Bengals will certainly help their chances.